TestGorilla LogoTestGorilla Logo

How to assess non-verbal communication skills during the hiring process


Non-verbal communication is how we send messages without talking, using actions like facial expressions, hand gestures, and body posture. Employees adept at this silent skill can enhance interpersonal interactions and significantly improve the effectiveness of teamwork and customer relations within your company. 

The pressure is on hiring managers to discern the unspoken truths candidates carry into interviews, but how can you accurately evaluate how well someone communicates non-verbally? 

In this article, we guide you through the subtle art of non-verbal assessment, providing strategies for finding great candidates through the use of workplace communication tests.

What you need to know about non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is one of the four communication types we use. It encompasses an array of gestures, facial expressions, body language, posture, eye contact, and even pace and tone of voice – all conveying meaning beyond words.

The significance of non-verbal cues in the workplace

Communicating non-verbally is an integral part of human interaction, often imparting emotions and intentions more powerfully than spoken language. Non-verbal cues can affirm or contradict what is being said, offer insights into a person's true feelings, and reveal confidence, openness, and receptivity.

Non-verbal proficiency contributes to an individual's ability to negotiate, resolve conflicts, and build relationships – all essential for a harmonious and productive work environment. Moreover, non-verbal communication is a critical component of leadership, influencing how effectively a leader can inspire, motivate, and connect with their team.

In customer-facing roles, non-verbal cues can be the difference between a positive and a negative interaction. A candidate who excels at reading and responding to non-verbal signals will likely navigate customer needs and concerns more adeptly. 

Why you should evaluate job candidates’ non-verbal communication skills

Assessing communication competence in your candidates is essential for employing skilled individuals who will enhance team collaboration, interact professionally with customers, and have an impact on improving workplace communication.

Therefore, incorporating communication assessment tools into the hiring process can help ensure you hire professionals who will represent your company's values, strengthen team cohesion, and enhance client satisfaction.

How to assess candidates for non-verbal communication skills

Assessing candidates’ non-verbal communication skills can be done at almost all stages of the hiring process. Here’s how:

1. Screen the applications

The assessment of non-verbal communication skills begins before a candidate even enters the interview room. 

Scrutinize the non-verbal cues in their resume and cover letter. While these documents are inherently textual, they can offer insights into a candidate's attention to detail and professionalism, which are indirect indicators of their non-verbal communication aptitude.

You can consider:

  • Format and structure. A well-organized and visually appealing resume suggests a candidate’s ability to present information in a clear, coherent manner.

  • Tailoring. A cover letter customized to your organization implies the candidate can adapt their communication to suit the context, non-verbally reflecting an understanding of the importance of aligning with company culture.

2. Administer skills testing

Before meeting candidates face-to-face, leverage talent assessments to glean insights into their non-verbal communication skills. 

TestGorilla offers a Communication skills test designed to evaluate a candidate's ability to interpret non-verbal cues, among other communication competencies. 

Implementing such tests early in the hiring process can save time by effectively identifying promising candidates.

3. Ask structured interview observations

During the interview, be intentional about observing non-verbal communication in your candidates. You can even design certain interview segments to evoke specific non-verbal responses. 

Here are some examples of what to pay attention to during your interview:

  • The greeting. Take note of the candidate’s handshake (or alternative greeting), eye contact, and smile upon introduction.

  • Active engagement. Throughout the interview, watch for indicators of engagement, such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, and leaning forward.

  • Stress responses. Pose challenging questions to observe how candidates handle pressure. Look for signs like fidgeting, changes in voice pitch, or avoiding eye contact.

  • Consistency. Pay attention to congruence between a candidate’s verbal responses and their non-verbal cues. Inconsistencies might suggest discomfort or a lack of authenticity.

Use TestGorilla’s one-way interview feature to assess candidates' non-verbal communication through preset interview prompts, enabling a thorough evaluation at your convenience.

4. Run group interaction assessments

For roles that require teamwork and leadership, consider group assessments. 

Observe how candidates:

  • Collaborate. Do they facilitate discussion and encourage others, or dominate the conversation?

  • React non-verbally. Are they attentive to others' non-verbal cues and responsive in kind?

  • Lead. Can they command attention without words, through posture and presence?

TestGorilla’s personality tests can complement your observations by providing insights into candidates' preferred communication and leadership styles.

5. Simulate on-the-job scenarios

Run simulations of scenarios the candidate might face on the job in order to gauge their non-verbal skills in real-life settings.

These could include:

  • Role-playing. Engage in role-play to test how candidates might handle a difficult client or colleague. Observe their facial expressions and body language.

  • Problem-solving tasks. Present a task that requires problem solving under observation. This can reveal a candidate's ability to stay composed and communicate non-verbally under stress.

6. Create feedback loops

Post-interview, connect with other interviewers and staff who interacted with the candidate. Gathering multiple perspectives can help in assessing the consistency of the candidate's non-verbal communication across different settings and people.

7. Integrate empathy

While assessing non-verbal communication is critical, it's also important to be empathetic. Nervousness can affect non-verbal cues, and cultural differences may influence body language and eye contact. Use your observations as one part of a holistic evaluation process.

Assessing non-verbal communication skills requires a multifaceted approach. Through the right combination of application analysis, skills testing, structured interviews, group assessments, and scenario simulations, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s non-verbal communication capabilities. 

This leads to a selection of candidates who aren’t just technically proficient, but also excel in the silent yet powerful art of non-verbal communication.

Where to find skilled non-verbal communicators

Finding talented staff with non-verbal communication skills can be a significant hurdle, as these abilities are often honed through experience rather than taught in traditional educational settings. 

To source candidates who excel in non-verbal communication, you need to look beyond the resume and into environments where these skills are displayed and valued. Places to find non-verbal communication experts include:

  • Networking events. Attend industry-specific events, workshops, and conferences where professionals gather. Watch for individuals who demonstrate poise, an ability to read the room, and engage with others through their body language and eye contact.

  • Social media platforms. LinkedIn, X, and even Instagram can be great places to observe how potential candidates present themselves. For example, through their online persona and how they non-verbally connect with their audience.

  • Professional groups and forums. Join online communities and forums related to your industry. Active members often showcase their ability to engage and convey ideas effectively through thoughtful reactions and interactions.

  • Referral programs. Encourage current employees to refer individuals they admire for their composure, adaptability in high-pressure situations, and overall demeanor. These traits can reflect strong interpersonal and non-verbal communication skills.

  • Industry associations. Members of professional associations are often committed to continuing education. This means they may have honed their ability to communicate effectively in group settings, collaborate with peers, and present themselves professionally at events and seminars.

4 creative ways to find non-verbal communication experts

Beyond traditional channels, here are four more creative places you can find non-verbal communication experts for your company:

  1. Remote work platforms. Explore remote talent pools where video conferencing is the norm. Candidates experienced in virtual communication often have finely tuned non-verbal skills. Attracting remote talent can be advantageous as it widens your search horizon and taps into a segment of professionals who are comfortable with virtual communication.

  2. Improv workshops. Attend or host improvisation acting workshops to identify individuals with quick thinking and expressive non-verbal skills.

  3. Public speaking clubs. Organizations like Toastmasters are filled with individuals who are conscious of their non-verbal communication and continually refining their skills.

  4. Volunteer organizations. Volunteers often work in diverse environments that require adaptive non-verbal skills. Look for leaders within these groups.

Common mistakes when assessing non-verbal communication skills

Assessing non-verbal communication is a subtle art, and some pitfalls can lead to misjudgment. 

Here are five common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Overemphasis on single cues. Relying too much on one aspect of non-verbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, can lead to incorrect conclusions. For instance, candidates with autism may make less eye contact than others. It’s important to consider the full range of non-verbal expressions.

  2. Ignoring context. Non-verbal cues must be interpreted within the context of the situation. For example, crossed arms might indicate defensiveness or simply a chilly room.

  3. Cultural insensitivity. Non-verbal communication varies across cultures. Misinterpreting these differences can unfairly bias an assessment.

  4. Underestimating nervousness. Interview anxiety can affect a candidate’s non-verbal communication. Distinguish between chronic non-verbal habits and temporary nerves.

  5. Neglecting baseline behavior. Without understanding a candidate’s typical non-verbal behavior, changes in their communication style can be misinterpreted.

How to select the best candidates with non-verbal communication skills

Selecting the best candidates with non-verbal communication skills requires a combination of targeted questions, observation, and pre-employment testing tools.

  1. Run skills testing. TestGorilla's Communication (intermediate) test evaluates candidates' ability to interpret and use non-verbal cues effectively. Incorporate testing early in the hiring process to streamline candidate selection and identify those with strong non-verbal communication skills from the get-go.

  2. Use structured observation. Develop a checklist of non-verbal cues to evaluate all candidates consistently. Include key indicators such as posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures that display engagement, confidence, or stress.

  3. Ask the right questions. During interviews, ask questions that encourage candidates to discuss times they've had to rely on non-verbal communication. For example, “Describe a situation where you had to read the room quickly.”

  4. Observe in different settings. Assess candidates in various situations, from formal interviews to more casual interactions, to get a well-rounded view of their non-verbal communication styles.

  5. Watch for consistency. Look for alignment between verbal and non-verbal communication. Inconsistencies may suggest a lack of authenticity.

  6. Train interviewers. Ensure that your hiring team is knowledgeable about non-verbal communication to avoid common assessment mistakes. For example, overinterpreting natural nervous behaviors as a lack of truthfulness or applying cultural biases to gestures and eye contact. 

  7. Review with a team. Have multiple team members observe and provide feedback on candidates' non-verbal communication.

  8. Follow up with references. Corroborate your observations by asking references about candidates’ non-verbal communication in past roles.

Hire talented non-verbal communicators with TestGorilla

Assessing the best non-verbal communicators requires keen observation skills, an understanding of body language cues, and the tools to objectively test candidates. 

To help you, TestGorilla provides a comprehensive suite of tests to evaluate and understand candidate capabilities beyond verbal articulation. With more than 400 scientifically-validated tests, TestGorilla helps you gain insights into candidates' proficiency in interpreting and using non-verbal cues effectively.

Sign up for a free account and explore our comprehensive test library to enhance your hiring process. With the right tools and approach, you can ensure that you select candidates who are not only technically proficient but also exceptional communicators.


Hire the best candidates with TestGorilla

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

TestGorilla Logo

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Free resources

Anti-cheating checklist

This checklist covers key features you should look for when choosing a skills testing platform

Onboarding checklist

This resource will help you develop an onboarding checklist for new hires.

How to find candidates with strong attention to detail

How to assess your candidates' attention to detail.

How to get HR certified

Learn how to get human resources certified through HRCI or SHRM.

Improve quality of hire

Learn how you can improve the level of talent at your company.

Case study
Case study: How CapitalT reduces hiring bias

Learn how CapitalT reduced hiring bias with online skills assessments.

Resume screening guide

Learn how to make the resume process more efficient and more effective.

Recruiting metrics
Important recruitment metrics

Improve your hiring strategy with these 7 critical recruitment metrics.

Case study
Case study: How Sukhi reduces shortlisting time

Learn how Sukhi decreased time spent reviewing resumes by 83%!

12 pre-employment testing hacks

Hire more efficiently with these hacks that 99% of recruiters aren't using.

The benefits of diversity

Make a business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives with this data.